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''Scary Movie'' blows away ''Perfect Storm'' and ''The Patriot''

Keenen Ivory Wayans’ horror spoof is the summer’s second biggest opener

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Anna Faris, Regina Hall, ...

”Scary Movie” proved that it doesn’t take a horrifyingly big budget to conjure huge profits at the box office. The $19 million horror spoof not only scored $42.5 million in its opening weekend — making it the summer’s biggest debut since ”Mission: Impossible 2” raked in $57.9 million in May — it also toppled its very expensive competitors ”The Perfect Storm” and ”The Patriot.” George Clooney’s seafaring disaster flick fell to second place, taking in $27 million, while ”Patriot” dropped to No. 3 with $15.5 million.

Respectable figures, sure, but the reported $100 million-plus cost of each of those films must have industry moguls wondering if all the snazzy special effects (and Mel Gibson’s $25 mil paycheck) were money well spent. The other major newcomer this week, ”Disney’s The Kid,” brought in $12.5 million to win fourth place, while ”Chicken Run” took fifth by earning $9.5 million, bringing the 19-day total for the critically lauded claymation fantasy to $63.3 million.

Though the Keenen Ivory Wayans directed comedy is likely to move down a peg when ”X-Men” hits theaters this Friday, analysts say it won’t face serious comic competition until Eddie Murphy’s ”Nutty Professor” sequel opens July 28. In any event, movie execs breathed a collective sigh of relief this weekend as the top 5 films gave a much needed boost to the sagging summer box office. Earnings were up 9 percent from the Fourth of July weekend, and 26 percent from the same time last year when ”American Pie” was the biggest opener, with a $18.7 million take.

CRITICAL MASS So, how did the little ”Scary Movie” snag its big box office score? Well it definitely wasn’t thanks to the critics or the older crowd. Some 58 percent of voters said that it was ”Scary”’s raucous trailers that drew them to theaters, which means Miramax’s marketers can give themselves a pat on the back. Not surprisingly, only 4 percent of voters were tempted by the critics’ lowly assessment of the flick. Readers between the ages of 30 and 49, who collectively graded the movie an F, certainly won’t be rushing back to theaters to see the Wayans spoof next weekend. But who cares? The comedy’s highest grade of B+ comes from the vacationing under 29 crowd.

Young people with extra time on their hands are just the people movie execs are keen to please during the summer, and from the looks of EW Online’s poll, ”Scary Movie” is set for a good run. Some 43 percent of voters said that they were very likely to see the movie again, while 53 percent said that they would definitely tell their friends to see it. But that doesn’t mean ”Scary”’s big budget competitors are doomed to suffer embarrassing losses. A whopping 70 percent of voters who saw ”Patriot” said that they would recommend it to friends, while 55 percent said the same for ”The Perfect Storm.” Still, even a musket-armed Mel Gibson couldn’t have anticipated such a revolutionary weekend at the box office.

To vote on these and other current movies, visit our Critical Mass Movie Poll.